What Do Pastries Have To Do With The Next It Bag?

by Maura Brannigan
Edward Berthelot/WireImage/Getty Images

In the hyper-styled Instagram bubble, you've likely grown accustomed to a certain hyper-Parisian image that frequently appears in your fashion-filled feed. This dispatch comes from a cherry red lacquered bistro table, with a foamy coffee or carafe of Bordeaux in one corner and an artfully unstructured scatter of accessories in another. At the center of it all is the croissant, an iconic, delicious encapsulation of sophisticated French-ness. Generally, it's the real deal: a crescent viennoiserie, in all its buttery, flaky glory. But within certain fashion spheres, pastries have also inspired a fashion trend.

Meaning, there's a chance it could also be the trendy croissant bag, which comes in the same signature half-moon shape as the pastry, in no shortage of aesthetic variations — from roomy, ruched totes to trim under-arm sacs — and across every which color way. While Bottega Veneta’s Shoulder Pouch, a street style darling, and the functional antithesis to an itty-bitty micro-bag, may be the most en vogue of the bunch, Creative Director Daniel Lee is far from the only designer crafting purses that are reminiscent of layered pastries.

For classic French brands like Lemaire, croissants are but a natural part of everyday life, which may explain its semicircle paneled leather shoulder bag fittingly called the Croissant Bag. Elsewhere throughout Sweden, Colombia, Vietnam, the U.K., Hungary and the U.S., brands like Totême, Marargent, Gia Studios, Rejina Pyo, Nanushka, and Staud, respectively, have all paid respects to the flaky treat with arced bags of their own. As the above may indicate, the silhouette is indeed having something of a mouthwatering moment. Croissants and other delicate, doughy treats are as timeless an inspiration as is the pastry itself. May we remind you of the croissant bag’s baton-like cousin, the baguette?

In 1997, Italian house Fendi first debuted the long, slender purse as something meant to be carried under the arm just as the French do their spears of crusty bread. More than 100,000 were reportedly sold in the first year alone, and by 2000, the bag had reached the silver screen: When Carrie Bradshaw and her purple sequin Fendi Baguette got mugged in an alley in Sex and the City’s third season, she told her attacker it was not a bag, but a “bag-uette.”

With a recent early-aughts revival returning years-old staples to prominence, the baguette bag came back in a big way: Fendi itself reissued the purse in 2018, debuting it once again on its Spring 2019 runway in Milan. Two years later, baguette fever may have died down, but the croissant bag is the next thing in the boulangerie to get the capital-F Fashion treatment. So why are designers so inclined to make handbags we want to nosh on?

In a sense, croissant bags are the perfect confectionery storm of all that accessories designers wish to accomplish in the handbag department. As an evolution of the Fendi Baguette, croissant bags are just vaguely enough vintage-inspired that they lend something interesting to the wearer, but are still coherent in a recognizable shape.

“We’ve noticed a strong return of vintage influences in accessories, especially bags and small leather goods,” says Maud Barrionuevo, director of buying at LVMH’s luxury shopping platform 24S. “Retro styles are more noticeable and are worn as a fashion statement ... bold colors, unique textures, playful prints. These variations are unlimited and intended to be fun and youthful.”

Mariana Ramirez, designer and founder of Colombian handbag label Marargent, has quickly carved out a niche for herself within a crowded market courtesy of the brand’s ultra-luxe, elegant designs. As with all its pieces, Marargent’s croissant-like Pierre Bag features details inspired by great artists, like its namesake, renowned French interior designer Pierre Paulin.

“In our case, we didn't create Pierre for the purpose of being trendy or popular,” says Ramirez. “We created this model to be appreciated as art and to be passed down from generation to generation. But if you ask us, we think it's popular in the fashion industry due to the evolution of the same shape. Now it's not only about the figure, but about the folds, layers, and asymmetry.”

Croissant bags may find retro influence in their similarities to the Fendi Baguette, absolutely. But there’s a more subtle force at play. Barrionuevo owes the croissant’s success to the category-wide return to the soft, buttery leather, which she equates to the feeling of gentle gloves or a cuddly toy and which we last saw with such prevalence two decades ago. Back on Instagram, the hashtag #stickofbutter (as originated by Man Repeller Brand Director Harling Ross) chronicles outfits in head-to-toe shades of creamy yellows.

“The last couple of seasons, we’ve seen designers really exploring a ‘90s-, 2000s-reminiscent softness, notably through fabric draping, gathering and ruching,” says Celenie Seidel, senior women's editor at Farfetch. “A similar softness has also developed a significant presence within bag trends — we’ve seen curvaceous, folded, feminine, croissant-like shapes.”

It is not exactly startling that in this moment of such ripe cultural and societal upheaval, we’re gravitating toward softness, warmth and safety in all aspects of our lives, our clothing and accessories included. It’s the same psychology that might explain our current fixation on glitter, sparkle, or otherwise sugary-sweet color palettes. So while croissant bags may represent our desire for a collective coziness, candied purses like those of Susan Alexandra — or somewhat less literal, By Far — may represent a kind of saccharine escapism. Like something you might find in a pâtisserie window, these bags are as precious as a strawberry-encrusted mille-feuille.

A beaded Susan Alexandra purse in the shape of a watermelon may not be so minimalist in theory, but the humble croissant bag certainly is. And with such a playful silhouette, it’s a more unique alternative for those wishing to dabble in the midland between Gucci maximalism and The Row simplicity. “It’s at the same time original and really easy to wear,” says Paris-based influencer-turned-designer Anne-Laure Mais, who, after years of blogging under the pseudonym Adenorah, launched her clothing line Musier in April 2018. “I also think it’s very practical, which is very important for a bag.”

After all, Mais is the verified expert here: As something of the quintessential French style star, Mais has made a multichannel business of her Parisian sensibilities — which, memorably, have gone so far as to carry around an actual baguette on a chain and call it a handbag.

Given the croissant’s airy texture, it's not recommended that you hook a handle on a pain au chocolat from Du Pain et des Idées and tote it to get your matcha. But that doesn’t mean the shape doesn’t have legs: Expect to find croissant bags in the fashion lexicon for the next few seasons. “Designers are becoming more adventurous in their exploration of accessory shapes, and I think we can expect to see this current trend continue to develop and morph into new iterations,” says Seidel. And if you're looking to the future, wouldn't you love to find a puffy, glossy brioche tucked away in your grocery cart as well as hanging in your closet?